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You Have To Be Fearless To Find An Audience

“I mean, if at some point in your radio career your boss doesn’t call you in to the office because somebody got their feelings hurt, you’re probably not doing it right.”

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As a sports talk radio host and a sports talk radio junkie, there are very few things that I appreciate more than knowing that I’m getting truth out of every single opinion that an on-air talent spits out. I appreciate those that are willing to go out on a limb with strong opinions, challenge the establishment, try new things, and especially those that are willing to call out local teams.

you can't say that! - sh-you-cant-say-that | Meme Generator

I think on a local level it becomes increasingly difficult as a lot of the stations that you might work for are the home of one of the popular teams in town. Those relationships are so valuable. The credibility that those team affiliations add to your radio station are invaluable. But if you are ever speaking through a filter, with some form of a sanitized take for the sake of a media partner, listeners will be able to see right through that. I know I can and I’m sure all of you can as well. 

For me, fearlessness doesn’t mean just being raunchy, rude, or saying outlandish things for the sake of getting a reaction. There’s a certain tact and approach that true authenticity provides and the minute that you lose that, you might not lose your audience, but I do think you lose your upside as an on-air talent.

Think of the most successful broadcasters that are out there, specifically those that are sports talk hosts, did they reach the mountaintop because they held back their opinions? I mean, if at some point in your radio career your boss doesn’t call you in to the office because somebody got their feelings hurt, you’re probably not doing it right. 

Of course, there’s a line that you should not cross and there’s a frequency in which badgering the local team, or whoever it might be that you’re offending, gets a little bit redundant and tiresome, but it’s about the willingness to have an opinion on absolutely everything without holding yourself back, that’s what makes the great one special. I think it’s an interesting conundrum for Program Directors as well because you might have hosts or producers that have an affiliation with a local team, maybe they’re the play-by-play guy or aspire to be that. Conflicts of interest arise with those relationships, even if they can be beneficial for everyone involved.

I work on the official Orlando Magic radio pregame show so I know this world all too well. I host an afternoon show in Orlando and I’m also working side-by-side with the Magic, so I have to thread that needle of honesty while also not affecting my standing with the team that aids my growth in my career.

It’s a balancing act, but it’s one I take very seriously. I don’t want to ruin relationships I’ve built over many years. I also don’t want my audience to ever think they’re getting anything less than the unvarnished truth. 

If you just watch those that have been successful to the highest degree in talk radio, you’ll see what I mean. Dan Le Batard, Clay Travis, Colin Cowherd, Howard Stern, or just insert your favorite radio host here, they are all fearless to a degree. None of those individuals got to where they are because they were scared to have an opinion. If I’m speaking openly and honestly about a story and a team in my market has that big of a problem with it, as long as I’m not stretching the truth or going on a witch-hunt, I feel as though it is within my job to provide the proper analysis, and if I were asked to hold back then that’s probably not a relationship that I need to be in anyway. As Program Directors, finding talent that can thread the needle is key these days, and it’s not easy. 

Threading Sewing Needles | ThriftyFun

In today’s world, it is becoming harder and harder to get your point across without offending someone somewhere. We live in a world of hyper-sensitivity, some of which is good, but it can be difficult to navigate in broadcasting. Even with all that, you can’t allow yourself to get bogged down by fear that you’re going to say the wrong thing. You should be able to get your point across without feeling like you need to censor yourself. In my mind, as long as you’re not a bigot or violating FCC rules, your honesty will be appreciated by your audience and your employer. 

Face it, we’re in the midst of an audio/content explosion, where there are about a million different options out there. So, if you hold back, if you let yourself become stale, sanitize your opinions, and don’t provide your most authentic self, someone else will, and your listeners will probably find them with relative ease. 

BSM Writers

Mike Greenberg Asked a Fine Question, But He Can Do Better

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.

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USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74

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This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.

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One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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